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Ancient and MedievalLate Medieval Transformation

These perceptive packages continued to have an impact until the Renaissance of the fifteenth century and were joined from the time of Dante (1265–1321) onward by a less uniform but still extensive set of commentaries and notes on and from the De Inventione and Ad Herennium, in both Latin and, especially, in Italy, in the vernacular. This complex of texts had a profound influence on the shape of major literary works of the period (Jean de Meung's Romance of the Rose, Dante's Divine Comedy, the works of Chaucer) and on modes of elite historical writing, though the formal instruction of the universities (from the thirteenth century onward) concentrated only on the theoretical structure of the classical rhetorical system (using a text such as the early sixth-century Italian Boethius's On the different topics), and on the provision of a training in dictamen, the ars poetriae, and the ars predicandi. Italian culture from the time of Petrarch on added force and precision to the classical rhetorical inheritance, enriching the texts favored by the Middle Ages with works less in vogue during the former period (the mature rhetorical texts of Cicero, and his letters—which became key texts in Renaissance rhetoric—together with the works of Hermogenes and the full text of Quintilian's Institutes of Oratory), thus inculcating a more thorough-going recovery of classical Latin (and Greek) modes of expression and vocabulary, together with doctrines neglected—or practiced differently—in the Middle Ages (such as numerus or the system of prose rhythm discussed in many of Cicero's mature rhetorical works). In this respect the medieval West finally drew nearer to the Byzantine world of Eastern Europe and western Asia, where classical Greek rhetorical influences maintained their hold and there was less of a parallel to the rupture caused in the west by the so-called fall of the (western) Roman Empire. In Byzantium, the emphasis evident in the "preliminary" compositional exercises or progymnasmata (Greek; in Latin praeexercitamina) found among the works of Hermogenes (this portion only translated into Latin and therefore available to the Latin Middle Ages) and Aphthonius of Antioch (fourth century C.E.—remained dominant. Judicial rhetoric was dominated by the classical emphasis upon stasis-theory (that is, a classification of the 'issues' an advocate might encounter in the law courts), whilst epideictic and deliberative rhetorical theory and practice gradually gained strength. The whole complex of Byzantine rhetoric proved influential even upon the Islamic world of the Arabs during the Middle Ages, and from the ninth-century onward, a commentary tradition emerged, based upon the so-called Apthonian-Hermogenic corpus of rhetorical works. As in the West, a tension was evident between a striving for effect that might have struck some as "obscure" and an emphasis upon a simplicity open even to the ill-educated. The wide oral and theoretical range of Byzantine rhetorical studies and practice is illustrated by the works of Michael Psellus (1018–c. 1072). In contrast with the West, Byzantium emphasized rhetoric more than dialectic (argumentation) and made less of rhetorical techniques for scriptural exegesis or interpretation.

In both antique and medieval times, Greek and Latin rhetorical ideas, despite the patriarchal conventions that underlay contemporary gender ideas, spread to select women: in the medieval period (H)rotsvit of Gandersheim (tenth century), Heloise (twelfth century), and Christine de Pisan (writing in the French court vernacular but understanding and using Italian and Latin) made notable contributions to the literary genres of their day. Like the female mystics (for example Marguerite Porete, burnt in Paris for heresy in 1310), they did not contribute to the technographic rhetorical teaching literature, but they did absorb much of the contemporary rhetorical culture. Ancient examples include such figures as Aspasia, the mistress of Pericles of Athens (whose famous "funeral speech" in the later fifth century B.C.E. some suppose she wrote), and Hypatia of Alexandria (fourth century C.E.).


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John Ward

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Revaluation of values: to Sarin Gas - History And Global Production Of SarinRhetoric - Ancient and Medieval - Graeco-roman Origins, Aristotle And His Successors, Roman Imperial Rhetoric, Medieval Transitions, Late Medieval Transformation